African Sun pins recovery hopes on UK and US Covid-19 restrictions easing 

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By Alois Vinga

TOP hotelier, African Sun Limited, has expressed hopes that the local tourism industry will tap into the European and American markets’ potential on the back of the region’s Covid-19 restrictions easing.

The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 prompted widespread lockdown restrictions globally, which continue to disrupt travel, and exposed local companies to huge losses.

Presenting the hotelier’s annual report for 2021 this week, African Sun’s chief executive officer, Peter Saungweme, pinned hopes on the return of international markets.

“Notably, the United States of America (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) have opened up. Extensive vaccination programs and weaker Covid-19 variants resulted in increased confidence and a greater appetite for travel,” he said.

On the domestic front, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) reported that 2021 international tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe decreased by 40%, compared to 2020, and was 84% lower relative to the 2019 pre-pandemic period.

Meanwhile, during the review period, the group’s operating expenses increased by 23% compared to the same period last year attributed to the increase in volumes driving variable costs, with the hotel business operating expenses  increased by 24% from ZW$1,97 billion to ZW$2,44 billion.

The group has tabled plans to refurbish its hotels in anticipation that the roof coverings at Troutbeck Inn Resort  will be completed by the beginning of Q2 of 2022,  paving way for the refurbishment of 70 rooms at Troutbeck.

Refurbishment of 47 rooms at The Victoria Falls Hotel is progressing well, and the works are expected to be completed during Q2 of 2022.

Preparatory work to carry out the refurbishment of eight additional rooms at Great Zimbabwe and remedial works on the Hungwe Conference Centre are at an advanced stage, with actual works likely to commence in Q2 2022.

“The group will focus on continuous improvement of its digital space. Site-minder Channel Manager for online web bookings, with real time two-way interface to our OPERA Property Management Systems is a game changer,” added Saungweme.